Thomas Crown Affair


Film is a medium on which society thrives. Ever since its invention, film has managed to captivate society but offering "...sensational ?junk food for the mind' that does not deal seriously with our social and political problems but instead diverts and entertains us" (Berger, MAT 164). Marxist thought is one of the most powerful and suggestive ways available to the media analyst for analyzing society and its institutions. America, although a capitalist society, constantly perpetuates the teachings of Karl Marx. They see the ill effects of his Manifesto of the Communist party in society today as well as in the society of 1968. Fundamental principles of Marxist analysis include alienation, materialism, false consciousness, class conflict.
"Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other -- bourgeoisie and proletariat" (Marx http://www.anu. edu.au/polsci/marx/classics/manifesto.html#Bourgoise). That was the initial statement of Karl Marx's Manifesto of the Communist party: the distinction of the main two classes, the upper or ruling class, the bourgeoisie, and the lower or working class, the proletariat. These two terms are used to classify a broad base of classes; however, for the movie, "The Thomas Crown Affair" these terms are not hard to infer. The main character, Thomas Crown is one of the most stereotypical characterized members of the bourgeoisie any movie. This multimillionaire is seen flaunting every aspect of the upperclass that the directors could pack into the two hours of the movie. Crown takes the time to learn every technicality of each situation into which he gets. "If we are to survive, [we must] keep on top of things and never be caught napping" (Berger, MAT 164). In the 1999 film, during his meal with Katherine Banning, he states from memory anything and everything from her past just like he was reading it from a file. He does his research. Crown calculates every move, and maintains constant control over those around him. He is the ultimate representation of the ruling class. This fortunately allows the objective audience to be very broad. The members of the bourgeoisie watch in laughter and awe of a character acting out many actions they think of acting out only do not have the ambition nor ability to try. The members of the proletariat watch in envy as they see a character living out their dreams.
The Manifesto reads, "The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers" (Marx http://www.anu. edu.au/polsci/marx/classics/manifesto.html#Bourgoise). Thomas Crown is shown having "stripped the halo" by using the proletariat as pawns in his respective heists. In the 1968 version he uses five middle class men who are all in some sort of financial trouble to pull off a bank robbery for the mere chance of getting $50,000 each, while Crown would keep $1,750,000 for himself. That is, as Marx would put it, "exploiting the proletariat." At the end of the movie, just as a jest for the police, Crown hires five more men to do the same thing. He is shown constantly using people to do the dangerous part of the work that he does. This is taken even further in the 1999 version of the film. The 1999 Thomas Crown hires Iranians to attempt to rob the art gallery. Only, the Iranians are never meant to succeed. As Crown aids in their capture, he steals the painting himself. The fact that he does it himself is very important in showing that America's view of the bourgeoisie has improved. As the Capitalism that America perpetuates changes, so does societies responses to the particular parts and classes. "Capitalism is not only an economic system, but also something that affects attitudes, values, personality types, and culture in general" (Berger, MAT 40). The ruling class is now displayed with such a power, that the proletariat is supposed to idealize them. Whereas in the 1960s, the bourgeoisie was displayed as an unattainable position. It is a position that was out of reach during that time due to the fact that the period from the depression through the Vietnam war killed the American Dream. Back then it was not a matter of idealizing them but fearing them and staying out of their